UPSC CDS-I 2021: Apply online for 345 vacancies

UPSC has released the notification for the Combined Defence Services (CDS-I) exam 2021. This article gives you all the necessary details about this examination, including the eligibility, syllabus, and application process. Do read on for more.

The Combined Defence Services Examination is conducted by UPSC twice a year to select eligible candidates for recruitment as commissioned officers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Before being recruited as officers, the candidates have to undergo rigorous training. For the CDS-I 2021, the total number of vacancies is 345.


The eligibility criteria for the various services are different and are listed as follows:
  • The candidate must be a citizen of India, a subject of Nepal, or a person of Indian origin who has migrated from certain countries intending to reside permanently in India (the list of countries is available in the notification attached with this article).
  • For Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Indian Naval Academy (INA), the candidate should be an unmarried male, born not earlier than 2nd January 1998 and not later than 1st January 2003.
  • For Air Force Academy, the candidate should be born not earlier than 2nd January 1998 and not later than 1st January 2002. Candidates with a valid Commercial Pilot Licence will enjoy a relaxation of one year on the upper age limit. Candidates below 25 years of age should be unmarried.
  • For Officers' Training Academy (SSC Course for men) the candidate should be an unmarried male born not earlier than 2nd January 1997 and not later than 1st January 2003. For Officers' Training Academy (SSC non-technical course for women) the candidate should be an unmarried woman (or a widow or a divorcee who has not remarried) born not earlier than 2nd January 1997 and not later than 1st January 2003.
  • For IMA and Officers' Training Academy, the candidate should be a graduate in any discipline from a recognized university. For the Indian Naval Academy, the candidate should have a degree in engineering. For the Air Force Academy, the candidate should have a Degree from a recognized University (with Physics and Mathematics at 10+2 level) or Bachelor of Engineering. Further, the candidates in the final year of graduation are also eligible to apply.
  • The candidates must possess a minimum level of physical fitness as provided in the official guidelines.

Stages of the examination and Syllabus

The exam comprises of the written examination and the interview for intelligence and personality test (for candidates who have cleared the written test). For admission to Indian Military Academy, Indian Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy, the candidate has to pass a written test consisting of 3 papers – English, General Knowledge, and Elementary Mathematics. Each paper will have maximum marks of 100 and a time limit of 2 hours per paper. On the other hand, for admission to Officers' Training Academy, the candidate will have to clear 2 papers – English and General Knowledge (time limit and maximum marks, in this case, is same). The question papers will be bilingual and will consist of objective-type questions only. The syllabus for the written test is as follows:


The English paper will be designed to test the candidate's understanding of English and the appropriate usage of words. Therefore, questions on synonyms, antonyms, idioms and phrases, comprehension, etc will be asked.

General Knowledge:

The GK paper will test the candidate's knowledge of current affairs, general science, Indian history, and Geography. According to the notification, the questions will be such that even candidates without a specialized study of these subjects will be able to answer them.

Elementary Mathematics:

The Mathematics paper will contain questions relating to Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics and Mensuration. For the specific topics which will be covered in the exam, please refer to the official notification.

Click here if you want to know about some useful books for the CDS exam. You can also check out the past year's CDS papers on the official UPSC website

After clearing the written papers, the candidate has to appear for the Intelligence and Personality test which will be conducted in two stages. The first stage will consist of an Officer's Intelligence Rating and Picture Perception and Description Test (PP&DT). The second stage will consist of Interview, Group Testing Officer Tasks, Psychology Tests, and the Conference which will be conducted over four days. Candidates who clear all these stages will have to clear the medical test conducted to check their physical fitness.

Application process

The application for the CDS exam will be online through the official portal The application process is given below:
  • On visiting the UPSC online portal, you would see a link "Online application for various examinations of UPSC". Click on that link.
  • On the next page, you would see the list of exams to apply for. Click on the Part I registration link for the CDS exam.
  • In the Part I registration, you only have to provide your basic details. After this is done, move on to the Part-II registration where you will have to upload your photograph, signature, and photo ID document. You are also required to select your preferred exam centre (list of centres given below).
  • You are also required to pay the application fee at this stage. Females, SCs, and STs are exempted from the application fee while General and OBC males are required to pay Rs 200. The fee payment can be done through online means as well as through offline means (depositing the money at an SBI branch as cash using the system generated pay-in-slip).
  • Please fill in the details carefully. After filling in all the details, you can submit the online form.


The exam will be conducted in 41 cities. Please note that the centres will be allocated on a first-apply-first-allot basis. Once a centre is filled, it is frozen and candidates can only apply for the other available centres. Therefore it is important to apply as early as possible. The list of centres is as follows:
Agartala, Ahmedabad, Aizawl, Bengaluru, Bareilly, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cuttack, Dehradun, Delhi, Dharwad, Dispur, Gangtok, Hyderabad, Imphal, Itanagar, Jaipur, Jammu, Jorhat, Kochi, Kohima, Kolkata, Lucknow, Madurai, Mumbai, Nagpur, Panaji, Patna, Port Blair, Prayagraj (Allahabad), Raipur, Ranchi, Sambalpur, Shillong, Shimla, Srinagar, Thiruvananthapuram, Tirupati, Udaipur, and Vishakhapatnam.

Important dates

  • Online application – from 28th October, 2020 to 17th November, 2020 (up to 6pm)
  • Application withdrawal (if desired) – 24th to 30th November, 2020
  • Date of written exam – 7th February, 2021

We hope that this article was helpful for aspiring candidates. If you have any doubts then please do check the official notification attached to this article.


  • CDS-I 2021 Official Notification (179572-1-CDS-I-2021-Official-Notification.pdf)
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